Systems Research to Identify Legume Options for Sustainable Intensification: Pigeonpea as a Test Case for Scaling in West Africa

A.Principal Investigators/Institutions:  PI Dr. Sieglinde Snapp, Soil and Cropping Systems Ecologist; Co-PIs Dr. Joe Messina, Geographer, Michigan State University; Mr. EricOwusu Danquah, Dr. Princess Hayford, Consultant.

B. Research and Project Objectives:  Our goal is to implement a systems research approach to scaling out technologies, through a test case of the suitability niche for pigeonpea. Through crop modeling and geospatial analysis, we will map the biophysical and socioeconomic niche for introduction of pigeonpea across West Africa. Further, we will identify high potential sites for pigeonpea in S. Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria and quantify the contribution of this multipurpose crop to soil fertility, fodder and stable sorghum yields, as well as a new legume protein source for female-headed households.

C. Relation to Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab Mission:  This activity directly addresses Area of Inquiry #1) Increased smallholder farm productivity through integration of legume cropping and/or agroforestry systems towards the goals of promotion of environmental sustainability, adaptions to variable and changing weather patterns, towards the goal of achieving resilience and income growth for smallholders.

D. Rationale:  This activity provides a solid foundation for legume systems research, using geospatial analysis to identify where crop species and varieties can be deployed, for effective targeting. The protocols developed will be useful to a wide range of researchers, educators and policy makers. We will build on the crop suitability niche maps we recently published for East Africa. Further, we will utilize initial growth assessments conducted at six sites, in Mali and Ghana, for medium and long duration varieties of pigeonpea. The biomass produced varied from 3 to 12 T/ha, showing the tremendous potential of this species to improve soil productivity and system resilience, while diversifying farm options through a new crop to sell, or consume.

E. How the research outputs will be expected to improve the outputs or homogenize the inputs of the competitively awarded research activities:  Outputs from the proposed activities will include detailed protocols for systems analysis targeting the ‘scale out’ of legume species, varieties and associated technologies. These will be made available to researchers and policy makers interested in legume options to improve rainfed cropping system resilience. Suitability maps we generate will also improve outputs of competitively awarded research activities. Finally, we will produce a report detailing how to quantify legume crop contributions to system resilience, through mapping and model simulations, illustrated through a pigeonpea test case.

F. Cross-cutting Issues:  This activity will provide a framework for the introduction of pigeonpea, a novelcrop in West Africa. It is a crop that has proved particularly effective at improving income options for women, and diversifying protein options for the entire family. Further, soil fertility gains through introduction of agroforestry species such as multipurpose legumes are key to enhancing the effectiveness of purchased inputs, increasing the returns for women farmers and other vulnerable groups.